First Commission Legal Action Challenging Workplace Genetic Testing under American’s with Disabilities Act
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that is has settled its first court action challenging the use of workplace genetic testing under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). EEOC had sought a Preliminary Injunction against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) to end genetic testing of employees who filed claims for work-related injuries based on carpal tunnel syndrome.
“EEOC sought the preliminary injunction to prevent irreparable harm to employees who faced the impossible choice of potentially losing their jobs or revealing their genetic makeup,” said Commission Chairwoman Ida L.Castro. “Our swift action in this case allows Burlington Northern employees subjected to genetic testing to continue to work free of retaliation and future invasions of privacy in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
According to EEOC’s Petition, Burlington Northern’s genetic testing program was carried out without the knowledge or consent of its employees, and at least one worker was threatened with termination for failing to submit a blood sample for a genetic test.
EEOC Commissioner Paul Steven Miller stated: “Employers must understand that basing employment decisions on genetic testing is barred under the ADA’s “regarded as” prong, as stated in EEOC’s 1995 policy guidance on the definition of the term “disability.” Moreover, genetic testing, as conducted in this case, also violates the ADA as an unlawful medical exam.”
The Agreed Order entered today is enforceable by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Western Division, located in Sioux City, Iowa, and will remain in place until the EEOC completes its investigation.
Further information about EEOC, including its ADA policy guidances, is available on the agency’s Web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This article is based on information provided by EEOC.